This Wind Quintet was commissioned by Chamber Music New Zealand Trust to be performed by Zephyr, with funding from Creative New Zealand. It is a semi-programmatic piece, inspired by associations with Central Otago. There are three connected sections, with the following sub-titles:
I – Chill winds from the south and west
II – By the Dry Cardrona III – A Procession of Clouds
These sub-titles come from lines and titles by New Zealand poets Brian Turner (I and III, both in the book Timeless Land) and James K. Baxter (II). Sections I and III reflect on the influence of the weather, while the middle section uses a New Zealand folk song as a basis for the material. Baxter’s poem By the Dry Cardrona was written in 1956 and was set to music by James McNeish and Don Toms. Numerous folk singers have adopted it, including Martin Curtis, to whom I owe my first experience of this marvelous song, on the album Gin and Raspberry. Part of the tune is subject to variations in this middle section.
The first section of the Wind Quintet is dominated by images of the wind, suggested by rapidly moving themes and patterns. There is some repose in a reflective second theme, which features bird-calls, announced on the flute and then taken up by the other instruments. These ideas are repeated and varied before the bird-calls fade, and the second section begins with strident flourishes on the clarinet. A stark solo on the flute is accompanied by cold-sounding chords, suggested images of winter. This is followed by solos on oboe and horn, before the music slips into the folk melody By the Dry Cardona, shared between flute and oboe. There are four variations on this melody and they conjure images of the expansive and wind-swept Cardrona valley. The section is rounded by a return to the strident flourishes, and the music leads into the final section, ‘A Procession of Clouds’. It is characterized by a constantly moving stream of notes, starting off in a meter of 7/8. The cry of birds is heard at one point, and a simple repeated theme in the middle suggests a human lying on their back, imagining shapes in the clouds. Similarities with the first section are made explicit in the coda, when the music eventually morphs back into the opening. The wind eventually dies out at the end.